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TILAPIA IN AQUAPONICS

Advantage
 Easy to bread
 Fast Growing
 Can withstand very poor water conditions (low O2 or high NH3 or high toxic environment)
 They’re rugged, resistant to disease and parasites
 Can tolerate lots of beginner learning-curve issues.
 They can eat almost anything that they are fed with.

Disadvantage
 They are temperature sensitive.
For most tilapia, when the water temperature drops down to about 55 degrees(Fahrenheit),
they will go into a stress induced dormant state.
 The different stages need to be separate
They are aggressive and the young generations might not be able to grow so they need to
be breeded in another place. The young tilapia are very
 The juveniles from previous spawns will actually be the most cannibalistic fish in the tank.
Young tilapia have a huge appetite for high quality protein, and tilapia fry are a great source
of protein in their eyes. They’ll eat any sibling they can fit in their mouth…

Feeding
1. Worms and insects – some great options for insects to raise as fish feed are black soldier
flies, crickets, cockroaches, and Wingless flies, earthworms, red wigglers, microworms,
blackworms, and grindal worms. All have various amounts of protein due to their own size
and species variations.
2. Aquatic plants – various types of duckweed, algae, elodea, water lettuce, and azolla are
very easy to grow in a side stream system.
3. Purchase flake or pellet food – While some enthusiasts go all out growing fish food, a large
majority find its easier to feed your fish a well balanced pellet food.\

Maintenance
 Decrease their “tank” size without decreasing total water volume – One way to do this is
to use fish cages in your tank with mesh bottoms. Another way is to reduce the size of your
fish tank while maintaining an auxiliary tank or sump equal to the water volume you
eliminated from the fish tank. No spawning area available means no spawning taking place.
 Introduce a few predator fish. The right selection will not bother your adult tilapia, but
they’ll keep the “herd” trimmed for you by eating most of the young. There are all sorts of
fun predator fish you could keep with them. I have a research report that concluded
largemouth bass and tilapia kept in a polyculture RAS improved growth rates substaintially,
compared to the monoculture control tanks of bass only or tilapia only. Similar studies have
produced similar results using catfish and tilapia in polyculture systems.
 Separate the male and female tilapia: This obviously works, however, it can be pretty time-
consuming in large systems, and only works as well as the person’s ability to correctly ID the
sexes. In most home systems, it’s not a huge deal to handle 50-200 fish though. Stock single
sex fish – Stocking “all male” fish for instance. Just keep in mind that hormones are used to
produce “all males” unless they come from a genetically male cross. Since
most aquaponics folks are growing their own food to avoid hormone treated foods, this
doesn’t usually jive with our goals.
 Reduce light: Tilapia spawn less frequently and less successfully when provided with more
dark hours than light hours. Reduce temps slightly. Tilapia tend to spawn at optimal levels at
temperatures between 78-84F degrees. At 72, most strains virtually stop spawning all
together, though they also grow slower… so not really the best solution in most cases.

Process
1. Sequential rearing
It involves the culture of several age groups (multiple cohorts) of fish in the same rearing
tank. When one age group reaches marketable size, it is selectively harvested with nets and
a grading system, and an equal number of fingerlings are immediately restocked in the same
tank. There are three problems with this system:
 the periodic harvests stress the remaining fish and could trigger disease outbreaks;
 stunted fish avoid capture and accumulate in the system, wasting space and feed;
and
 it is difficult to maintain accurate stock records over time, which leads to a high
degree of management uncertainty and unpredictable harvests.

2. Stock splitting
It involves stocking very high densities of fingerlings and periodically splitting the population
in half as the critical standing crop of the rearing tank is reached. This method avoids the
carryover problem of stunted fish and improves stock inventory. However, the moves can
be very stressful on the fish unless some sort of “swimway” is installed to connect all the
rearing tanks. The fish can be herded into the swimway through a hatch in the wall of a
rearing tank and maneuvered into another rearing tank by movable screens. With
swimways, dividing the populations in half involves some guesswork because the fish cannot
be weighed or counted. An alternative method is to crowd the fish with screens and pump
them to another tank with a fish pump.

3. Multiple rearing units


With multiple rearing units, the entire population is moved to larger rearing tanks when the
critical standing crop of the initial rearing tank is reached. The fish are either herded through
a hatch between adjoining tanks or into “swimways” connecting distant tanks. Multiple
rearing units usually come in modules of two to four tanks and are connected to a common
filtration system. After the largest tank is harvested, all of the remaining groups of fish are
moved to the next largest tank and the smallest tank is restocked with fingerlings. A
variation of the multiple rearing unit concept is the division of a long raceway into
compartments with movable screens. As the fish grow, their compartment is increased in
size and moved closer to one end of the raceway where they will eventually be harvested.
These should be cross-flow raceways, with influent water entering the raceway through a
series of ports down one side of the raceway and effluent water leaving the raceway
through a series of drains down the other side. This system ensures that water is uniformly
high quality throughout the length of the raceway.

Another variation is the use of several tanks of the same size. Each rearing tank contains a
different age group of fish, but they are not moved during the production cycle. This system
does not use space efficiently in the early stages of growth, but the fish are never disturbed
and the labor involved in moving the fish is eliminated.